I am no tactician. I like killing things quickly and moving on to the next goal. When a slow burning game like Brass Tactics, or any RTS game, comes around I generally, skip it. So, imagine my surprise when Hidden Path Entertainments’ latest RTS had me hooked for over four straight hours, and actually enjoying myself.
Now, I am not saying that Brass Tactics has me sold on RTS games. I still suck, but I am enjoying the suckage, and that makes me wonder what else I might be missing. That also makes me think that Brass Tactics is definitely a stand out game in regards to VR-RTS games. At least in some ways. So, let’s take a look at what this $40.00 game has to offer.
Brass Tactics is a VR real time strategy game exclusively for the Oculus Rift. So play it on ReVive if you have a Vive. You can go head to head or co-op, in single or multiplayer game modes. It come complete with an eight-chapter campaign, quick skirmish mode, and online play options. The free version of the game, Brass Tactics Arena, gives you a taste of all the game modes, whereas the retail version unlocks more levels and customization options.
All of the combat takes place on a giant gaming table that you are able to zoom around. But, your main focus is overtaking your enemies castle. To do this, you will need to expand your domain in order to gain the resources you need to build up your army and crush your opponent. Yes, your typical RTS stuff.
Hidden Path manages to make this game extremely approachable to new players. You are eased into the basics, while still being exposed to how complex RTS combat can be. The Easy setting gives just a slight challenge to new players, while the more difficult settings will challenge the more experienced players. Add all of this to a game that features full online support, and you have Brass Tactics.
Playing with Your Toys
The actual gameplay in Brass Tactics feels pretty fluid. I never found myself trying to figure out what something did, just how I should best utilize it. The first few levels in the campaign mode serve as a crash course in basic commands, and then advanced commands. Unlike most RTS games I have looked at, I never felt bogged down with too much information here. At the same time, I didn’t feel like things were so dumbed down that I would get bored.
In Fact, I found myself wanting to push forward through the campaign mode, just to see what kind of crazy stuff I could get away with. Before I knew it, over four hours had passed and I had completely worked through the games campaign. This was on the easy difficulty setting, so I suspect that the higher-level settings will add, significantly, to the time.
The story itself is pretty light, but it was a nice touch to a game that is clearly all about the strategy. Not the who or why. The buildup to the fight is where all the fun lies in Brass Tactics. You get access to a cool pallet of units, a simple set of rules, and some unit upgrades that can change the flow of battle. Those three things come together on the 20+ killer gaming tables you have access to and make for some truly stressful encounters. In a good way.
Controlling the Battle
The controller setup in Brass Tactics is pretty basic. You point at things, you click on them. You grip things and place them. All things we see in a ton of VR games. That’s why they work here. Hidden Path didn’t try to reinvent the wheel and it left everything feeling natural. Now, commanding your troops to perform specific commands does require some additional button input, but nothing complex.
Your hands also display all relevant resource information, and when you turn them over, you have access to your unit towers. Both hands function exactly the same, so right or left-handed folks should have no trouble easing into things.
Movement is a little wonky at first. It is all done through the grip buttons. Press one and pull yourself back or forwards around the table, press both and you move the table up or down. It did take me awhile to get the hang of it but it can be a little annoying when you’re trying to move across larger maps. I really would like to have seen some snap-to locations set up, in addition to the standard controls.
Graphically, this game is beautiful. Even on the low-end settings, things looked great. This is pretty important as when the unit counts start going crazy, the demand on your system jumps considerably. I ended up running on a medium setting while recording and things ran pretty smooth with a full set of units raining down hell fire.
The amount of detail we get in the units, and level design, really make this game stand out. You can also customize your units’ colors, which is a nice touch for online gameplay. The only thing that would make this area of the game even better, would be being able to look through the eye of a unit. Yes, you have no real reason to do so, but that’s just how freaking cool these things look when they fight!
The sound design throughout the game is solid. After a few rounds, you will pick up on all the relevant audio cues during gameplay. This is nice because it can be a little difficult to keep an eye on everything at first. The music is just okay. Nothing amazing, but you can alter the volume in the options. The voice acting your get during the campaign and against AI in the skirmishes, is top notch. Hidden Path really tapped some talent here and it pays off the first time you find yourself cursing your AI opponent.
So, Brass Tactics isn’t without its flaws. I would like to have some way to keep an eye on my unit health so I can cue up more efficiently. The movement could use a way to snap-to some predefined locations so I can move across the larger maps more quickly. Last but not least, that $40.00 price is a little high. Is it worth it?
You do get access to all 60 units, 20+ maps, 30 upgrades to units, and the ability to customize your unit colors. In addition to that, you get three slots to create your own unit pallets instead of the, balanced, aggressive, and defensive presets you get in Arena. But, ultimately, the value in this game comes down to how you’re going to play in the long run.
The campaign is good, but once you’re done, you’re probably not going back. The skirmishes are fun for the solo player and you can compete through leaderboard scores. The free version is just fine for folks that want to pop on and check out the game before moving on. You can even have a blast with your friends with the free version as well. But, if you really enjoy the online gameplay, the additional content in the retail version is probably going to give you a satisfying amount of value for your cash. That is who I would recommend this game to, the long term online RTS player, who really got into the free map in Brass Tactics Arena.